Background information (courtesy of Sypha Nadon):
In the summer of 1995, I was contacted by a man named Alex Gibson, founder and CEO of Young Gods Studios, a tiny software development company that had formed earlier that year. Though they had yet to release a game, they had many ideas that were innovative and cutting-edge. In particular, they were inspired by another small software development company called Looking Glass Studios, who of course are well known for the Thief and System Shock series. In fact, Young Gods Studios was even based in the same building as Looking Glass Studios. At the time, Young Gods was working on a first person POV Sci-Fi horror/survival game known as “The Black Omen.” It was very much influenced by System Shock, which had come out the previous year to great critical acclaim. However, the Black Omen was to have had a more accessible UI, better graphics, and more action-packed gameplay. They wanted the complexity, atmosphere, and brains of System Shock along with the muscular brawn of Doom. The game was also influenced by films like the Alien series and the Evil Dead series, along with Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap Cycle novels, along with a dollop of H.P. Lovecraft. I was hired to create the game’s soundtrack. They gave me a list of all the songs they needed for the game, including a main theme, a song for the opening cinema, a game over song, an end credits song, and music for the game itself, the songs that would be heard during the missions. Many of these songs were meant to be background music that was supposed to be looped repeatedly until the player completed the level. Which is why some of them are kind of bare bones. At the time, the music for many games was done using MIDI, so that’s what I used for the Black Omen soundtrack. Every single sound on the soundtrack came via MIDI; no samples of any sorts were used. The music I created was influenced by a lot of things, including Bobby Prince’s music for Doom (which was also all MIDI, with the exception of the game’s sound effects), industrial dance music that was popular in the 90’s (such as Front Line Assembly, Nine Inch Nails, and so on), stuff like that. Sadly, funding for the game ran out at a very late period in the game’s development and it was never officially released. However, bootlegs have been cropping up over the years, being sold at very high prices, mainly on eBay. Too bad, it was a great game; it could have sold well, even though it was very derivative of System Shock.
All music written, arranged, and performed by Sypha Nadon
Recorded Fall of 1995
Digitally Remastered at Polonius Studios Fall of 2007 to Winter of 2008 by James Champagne
Cover art by JC
The story of Black Omen (taken from the game’s intended instruction booklet):
The year is 2082. Earth is in a relatively stable state, politically speaking, as many of the planets nations have banded together to create a massive government known as the UNE (United Nations of Earth). In addition, humanity has begun spreading out to the deepest reaches of the solar system, thanks to the invention of the Jump Drive (which allowed inter-dimensional travel through the use of dimensional translocation). Realizing that one day the universe we live in will eventually be inhospitable to any kind of life form, the UNE decides to begin doing experiments on black holes and wormholes, trying to figure out a way to jump from one universe to another. To this end, they send their latest space ship, the UNE Prometheus, to go explore a strange black hole near Uranus. This black hole is in fact a type of wormhole. The UNE Prometheus is outfitted with advanced psionic enhancers that are able to manipulate ether: in fact, it has the ability to project a ghost copy of itself, a sort of out of body experience. The plan is for the ship to astrally project itself through the wormhole, to see what exists on the other side via remote viewing (hopefully, a young, inhabitable universe waits).
There’s just one problem. This particular wormhole leads to the dreaded Crooked Universe, the realm of the Lar-Vi. The Lar-Vi are astral parasites on a gigantic scale, alien locusts and larvae who feast on young, healthy universes, waging their wars from their home, the Crooked Universe, a place where time, space, and matter are perverted. The Lar-Vi wish to open up the wormhole to enter our universe, but they’re just too big to do so without collapsing the wormhole. Their conundrum is solved when the astral version of the UNE Prometheus projects itself through the wormhole, into their kingdom, for the purpose of data collecting. Astral parasite variations of the Lar-Vi cling to the “ghost” Prometheus during its journey into the Crooked Universe. These astral leeches are able to enter the subconscious of some of the Prometheus’ more sensitive crew members, thus infecting their minds. Therefore, when the “ghost” ship returns to its host on our side of the wormhole, it unwittingly brings along some Lar-Vi stowaways.
The crew members who have been possessed by the Lar-Vi sabotage the Prometheus’ AI, named Demiurge, converting it into a program that is loyal to the Lar-Vi only. Plans are hatched to use the Prometheus’ extremely powerful Jump Drive to open the wormhole gate, thus letting the Lar-Vi swarm into our universe. Demiurge begins to use the ship’s eco-pods to breed a new form of life, mutants that are minions of the Lar-Vi. It also activates the Prometheus’ state-of-the-art meteor shield to protect the ship from outside attack. Then it reconfigures the ship’s data codes to prevent the UNE from self-destructing the ship from Earth. It also starts to power up the ship’s experimental Black Hole Gun, which it plans to use against Earth (although by this point in the future Earth is not the only human outpost, it is still a major one). Soon enough, chaos reigns aboard the ship. Many of the ship’s crew went insane upon seeing the Crooked Universe for the first time, while others ended up getting possessed by the Lar-Vi. A few humans were able to resist, however, and some of them began trying to wrestle control of the ship away from Demiurge and the Lar-Vi. The ship’s captain, Jennifer Morgan, was even able to slip a Jump Messenger Drone to Earth without Demiurge realizing it. This drone contained an S.O.S, describing the chaos on the UNE Prometheus.
The UNE doesn’t want to tell the people of Earth how dire the situation is, for fear of causing a mass panic and rioting. Instead, they hatch a daring plan. Top operative Ashley Campbell, code name “Black Omen,” is assigned the mission of regaining control of the UNE Prometheus and saving Earth. She must pilot a small ship through the Prometheus’ meteor shield, using a cloaking device to escape detection. Next, she most dock in a small access flight bay on the ship’s medical deck. Then she must explore the ship, trying to figure out what went wrong. Fortunately, many of the crew members have left behind audio logs that fill in the ship’s back story. She is also kept in contact with her superiors on Earth at all times. Black Omen soon realizes that most of the Prometheus’ crew have either been killed off or mutated by the Lar-Vi. She must destroy the Black Hole Gun, destroy the eco-pods, take control of Demiurge, and eventually even enter the Crooked Universe itself using the ship’s psionic enhancer. All in a day’s work…
1. “Black Omen Theme”
This song is the game’s official theme song. It plays during the title screen.
2. “Opening Cinema”
This short song plays during the game’s opening cinema scenes, which appear when one starts the game. Text appears, informing the player about the game’s storyline. In the background, the player also sees images of chaos and destruction on the UNE Prometheus, captured by the ship’s security cameras. As the intro reaches its end both the songs and the images start to speed up before stopping suddenly, the transmissions stopped.
3. “Through the Meteor Shield”
This is the first stage of the game. The player now controls Black Omen. She’s in the cockpit of her small ship, called the Herald. The viewpoint is from the first person, Black Omen staring out her front view port, staring out at the vast ocean of space (in the distance one can see vast spiral galaxies). Like most of the music in the game, this song is looped, so once it comes to its end it just starts playing again from the beginning, until the player completes the stage. The purpose of this level is to pilot the Herald through the meteor shield, to reach the UNE Prometheus (the Herald is protected by a cloaking shield so that Demiurge doesn’t know that Earth has sent help). Mostly this stage is just dodging giant meteors. Once the Herald reaches the UNE Prometheus a cut scene shows Black Omen docking the ship on the outside of the Prometheus’ Medical deck’s maintenance flight bay. They then see Black Omen slip into an EVA suit, exit the Herald, enter the flight bay’s airlock. After that, the level ends.
4. “Hunting Mutants on the Medical Deck”
You’re now on board the UNE Prometheus. The Medical deck is a fairly simple stage, composed of various examination rooms, sick bays, doctor offices, operating theaters, cryo recovery, and so on. Here Black Omen begins to realize how dire the situation really is aboard the Prometheus, as she encounters not only the game’s first enemies but also the frantic audio logs left behind by the ship’s former crew members, almost all of whom are dead. The bloody warnings and messages scrawled along the metallic walls don’t really help matters (cryptic phrases such as “I saw bloody dove feathers in the mouths of the Crooked King”). Your goal is to find the elevator and take it up to the Science deck, where you can then destroy the Black Hole Gun. Sadly, Demiurge has cut the elevator’s power. This forces you to take a maintenance shaft down to the Reactor level, where you can then restore power to the elevators and continue on to the Science deck. In this stage Black Omen mostly encounters robots controlled by Demiurge, along with humans who have been possessed by the Lar-Vi. These humans have glowing mauve eyes and try to shoot you. Some of them can also levitate off the ground and spit out ectoplasmic leeches at you. Such leeches, if they hit you, can rapidly drain your energy, so be careful. On this deck’s operating theater you see the room has been turned into a dumping ground of corpses, where you’ll encounter your first mutants, who feed on the dead. They have mosquito heads and, if their proboscis touch you, drain your energy until you kill them.
5. “The Reactor”
In this stage, the player guides Black Omen through the Prometheus’ Reactor level, located towards the bottom of the ship. Upon reaching the Reactor, the player activates the back-up generator, making the ship’s elevators functional again. The level ends when the player takes the elevator to the science deck. Once again the player faces possessed humans, mutants, and robots, along with radiation leaks and a few booby traps.
6. “Futurist Elevator Music”
This is the theme that plays over and over again whenever the player boards one of the UNE Prometheus’ elevators.
7. “Mutant Massacre”
The first time you ride an elevator, from the Reactor deck to the Science deck, the elevator grinds to a screeching halt. Suddenly all around you are the sounds of many creatures pounding on the elevator walls. Holes are ripped through the steel and mutants start swarming you from all angles, and this song starts playing. You need to kill all the mutants. Once the song ends, the mutants back off and the elevator continues upwards.
8. “Science Deck”
In some ways the Science Deck is very similar to the Medical deck, in that it’s composed of various offices, research labs, and so on. The goal of this level is to reach the Black Hole Gun, which is aimed at Earth and powering up, and destroy it. This level has a count down. If you don’t destroy the Black Hole Gun before the count down finishes, it launches a giant black hole at Earth, causing the planet to be swallowed whole. This is a bad thing. Along with the usual possessed humans, mutants, and robots, in this stage you’ll also encounter winged mutants, who cling to the ceiling like bats and come spiraling down at you when you least expect it. After destroying the gun, the count down stops and you can explore the rest of the stage at your own leisure. The next step is to destroy the eco-pods that Demiurge is using to breed mutants. These eco-pods are located on the Executive deck. Sadly, the elevator you used to reach Science has been trashed by mutants, so you need to take the maintenance tunnels to reach Executive. And as some of the audio logs you’ve collected up to this point have warned you, the maintenance tunnels are haunted.
9. “The Haunted Maintenance Tunnels”
The goal of this stage is simple: go through the maintenance tunnels and reach the Executive deck. Sadly, the place is a maze of pipes and tunnels, and it’s in such a state of decay that the lights barely work, are constantly flickering on and off, adding to the scare factor. You’ll also be attacked by a special type of barely visible mutant, along with the deranged ghosts of some of the dead crew members (these ghosts can be dispersed with the special psionic gun, found on this level). You won’t want to linger on this stage for long.
10. “Executive Offices”
Perhaps the nicest-looking deck on the UNE Prometheus, full of carpeted halls, chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, potted plants, and so on. Too bad the halls are filled with roaming mutants, possessed humans, killer robots, winged mutants, and a new enemy, psychotic sentient radiation clouds. As if you didn’t have enough to deal with already. An audio log left behind by a now dead crew member named Hector Vallon informs you that Demiurge has blocked all access to the eco-pods, so you’ll need to find another way to get into them. Hector discovered that the eco-pods have environmental regulators placed on their exterior surface, devices that can be used to destroy all organic life inside the eco-pods themselves (such devices were created in the event that should a virus start to breed in the eco-pods, it could be safely killed from the outside). The only problem is, to get to the eco-pods exteriors you’ll need to find an EVA suit, exit the ship, walk along the ship’s surface, and go to all four eco-pods, activating each environmental regulator to kill off all the mutants inside each pod. And the surface of the UNE Prometheus is infested with giant hives full of lemur-like Zero-G mutants who can survive the cold vacuum of space. After learning this you’ll take the elevator off to the Flight Bay.
11. “Flight Bay”
This stage is mainly four giant flight bays, along with the hallways that connect them plus a few offices, garages, and escape pods. There are lots of winged mutants in this stage, along with all the usual enemies. Your goal is to find an EVA suit and exit to the exterior of the UNE Prometheus via one of the flight bays.
You’re now outside of the UNE Prometheus. The only sound you can hear is the distant roar of the ship’s thrusters. You must scale the surface of the ship, your EVA suit’s magnetic attachments the only thing keeping you from drifting into space. You need to climb atop each of the four orb-like eco-pods and switch on the environmental regulator to each one. This kills off all the breeding mutants. At the same time, you need to be careful not to disturb the giant wasp-like Zero-G mutant nests that are sticking to the side of the ship like malignant tumors. Accidentally bumping into one will cause the Zero-G mutants to start swarming out, where they will quickly overpower you and easily kill you. Be careful! Once all four eco-pods have been taken care of, return to the flight bay from whence you started.
New orders have arrived from Earth. Demiurge has begun using the Prometheus’ state-of-the-art Jump Drive to open up the wormhole. This must be stopped. You must reach the ship’s bridge, and use the ship’s psionic enhancers to project yourself into the Crooked Universe. There, you will use the Booke of Calthurr to briefly defeat Zumb Zumb, the god of the Lar-Vi. You can then return to the ship and, while Zumb Zumb is stunned, take control of Demiurge and use it to close the wormhole once and for all. It so happens that one of the crew members was obsessed with the occult and has a copy of the Booke of Calthurr in his room at the Crew Quarters, located beyond the Operations deck. Problem is, access to the Crew Quarters is blocked off by a special kind of force field, that can only be destroyed using the force field disrupter. To add insult to injury, the force field disrupter has been smuggled away on the storage deck. So you need to fight through Operations and take the elevator there down to Storage. Well, no one said this would be easy…
14. “The Museum of Atrocities”
At some point while you’re on Operations you might stumble across the Museum of Atrocities. Actually, you’ll need to go there, as the key card to use this deck’s elevator is hidden there. Here you’ll make a most gruesome discovery. Almost all the humans who resisted the Lar-Vi have been killed and placed in this museum, their bodies horribly mutated and disfigured beyond all recognition. One of these dead crewmembers has the keycard on him. You need to find it and get out. Once you have it, you can take the elevator down to Storage.
15. “The Glow”
Throughout the game, various audio logs left behind by the dead crew members have warned you to stay away from the Storage deck, that it houses an incredible evil. Indeed, Demiurge’s most evil mutant, the Glow, resides here, all alone. This stage begins with no music, no enemies. By all accounts, the Storage deck is deserted, with the exception of the corpses of dead crew members all around you, their corpses all... Glowing with an odd white color. A bloody message on the wall says, “RUN.” This stage might seem easy at first. That all changes when you discover the force field disrupter. Everything on the screen starts to glow a little brighter, and this song starts up. As the song continues, the screen keeps getting brighter and brighter, until it’s just blinding light, almost impossible to see what you’re doing. If you don’t get back to the elevator before the song ends, the screen goes completely white and Black Omen is consumed by the Glow. Game over, in other words.
16. “Crew Quarters”
Having escaped the Glow, you ride the elevator up to the Crew Quarters. There, you use the force field disrupter to gain access to the sector. This area, besides housing the various rooms for the crew members, also contains a gym, a movie theater, a casino, a shopping mall, and other recreational areas. Sadly, it’s just as overrun with monsters as every other area on the UNE Prometheus. Your goal is to find the room that belonged to Jacob McFinn, the occult-obsessed crew member who owned a copy of the Booke of Calthurr. Once you find that, it’s on to the Security deck.
17. “The Security Gauntlet”
Black Omen has come a long way. Now the only thing between her and the Bridge is the Security deck, which the Lar-Vi have turned into a fortress. Along with the usual enemies, you’ll also have to deal with booby traps, mines, security droids, missile-launching turrets, and so forth. This is perhaps the most action-packed stage in the entire game. People who like explosions will love this one. The goal is pretty simple: survive.
18. “The Bridge”
At last, the Bridge. The Lar-Vi have made modifications to this level, so it now resembles a kind of bio-mechanical H.R. Giger style. You’ll also encounter a new enemy, giant astral jellyfish, which are demonic projections from the twisted minds of the Lar-Vi. This is a fairly short stage. Just get to the area of the Bridge where the Demiurge mainframe and the psionic enhancers are located. Once you’re in the psionic enhancer chamber, you can astrally project yourself through the wormhole, into the Crooked Universe, which is the game’s final stage. It’s time to take the fight to them.
19. “The Crooked Universe”
Welcome to the Crooked Universe, home of the Lar-Vi. This is a short but very difficult stage. You need to battle your way to the inner sanctum of Zumb Zumb, who is being summoned by the Lar-Vi in preparation for the invasion of our universe. The problem with this stage is that, because this is the topsy-turvy world, sometimes unexpected things may happen. Your controls might get scrambled at random, the images on the screen might reverse or turn upside down, colors change rapidly, gravity goes in and out, enemies appear and disappear at random, or pop up near you when least expected, etc. So it can be a very confusing battle. Just try to get to Zumb Zumb’s sanctum in one piece. In this stage you’ll also battle the Lar-Vi themselves: giant, flea-like monstrosities.
20. “The Final Battle”
This is it, the final battle. Lar-Vi hovering along the perimeter of the inner sanctum’s main playing arena are summoning Zumb Zumb with silent prayers. Zumb Zumb starts off as a tiny dot that rapidly begins to grow as the stage progresses. You have to head to each of the three power points in the arena and use the Booke of Calthurr, to create a magical triangle that briefly binds Zumb Zumb and makes his power impotent. Of course, the arena is overflowing with monsters trying to make sure that doesn’t happen, and Zumb Zumb himself launches projectiles at you to try to kill you. When the song hit’s the 2:09 mark, if you haven’t completed the triangle Zumb Zumb appears in his full form in an angry roar of noise and kills you, bringing you to the game over screen. If you have completed the triangle, Zumb Zumb’s roar of noise becomes all choppy before dropping off to silence, and you are taken to the end game cinema, where you see Black Omen take over Demiurge and use it to destroy the Wormhole, cutting off the gate between our universe and that of the Lar-Vi. Humanity is saved! For now… the game then cuts to the end credits.
21. “End Credits”
This is the song that plays during the game’s end credits, after defeating Zumb Zumb.
22. “Game Over”
This is the song that plays if you lose all your energy in the game. The game over screen displayed a gruesome image of Black Omen’s dead body before fading to black and returning the player to the title screen.
The facial model for the character of Black Omen was Gina Gershon, who one of the game’s programmers had a crush on.